"As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him." - Psalm 18:30

The Sinner's Prayer

Many of the preachers of our day have promoted what they call "The Sinner's Prayer". At the close of their sermons they invite those who are not saved to come forward. Those who do so are then asked to repeat after them a prayer that goes something like this: "Father in heaven, I come before you as a sinner believing that your Son, Jesus, died on the cross to save me from my sins. I ask you now to forgive me of my sins and accept me as your child. In the name of Christ I ask this. Amen." The preacher then announces that those who said the sinner's prayer have been forgiven of their sins and are now children of God.

There is just one thing wrong with the procedure I have described: the Scriptures nowhere talk about "the sinner's prayer", and the Lord has not promised to save anyone from his sins through the process of saying such a prayer. This is a prayer — and a doctrine — that has originated with man alone, and those who say such a prayer are deceived into thinking that they have been saved. They are not only not saved, but because they have been deceived into thinking they are saved, they themselves remain lost and they influence others to follow their example in saying the same prayer and there­by remaining in their lost condition as well.

Read through the book of Acts and study carefully the 11 accounts of conversion that are given there. Is there even one situation where the sinner was asked to say "The Sinner's Prayer"? You will not find such a thing mentioned in a single case!

Let us look, together, at some of these conversion accounts. On the first Pentecost (a Jewish feast day that brought Jews together in Jerusalem from all over the world) after the resurrection of Jesus, the apostles were in Jerusalem, awaiting the promised coming of the power of the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). After receiving that power (Acts 2:1ff.) they began to preach to the audience in their own languages, evidence that God was working through the apostles. They explained that the prophecies of the Old Testament were being fulfilled, that Christ had lived among men, doing good, that with wicked hands He had been crucified, that He had been resurrected from the grave, and that He had returned to the Father in heaven to sit down at the right hand of God, to be King of kings and Lord of lords.

Many of the listeners were cut to the heart, becoming believers in Jesus as the Christ. They asked, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37)

Now what did Peter and the apostles tell them? "Just believe and you are saved!" or “Repeat after us `The Sinner's Prayer'?" No, we don't read such answers! What does Scripture say? It says, “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”(Acts 2:38) We read further, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” (Acts 2:41) Finally, we read, "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:47)

Now you will notice that nothing was said about prayer until after they had been baptized! Then as children of God, the Scripture says that "they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:42)

Before these people became children of God they were not in a relation­ship with God, so they could not properly pray! In other words, God was not their Father and they were not His children! But after they had obeyed the Lord, and had been born anew through a penitent heart in the waters of bap­tism, then they could pray, and they did pray, as we have just noticed.

Now, consider another case of conversion. This time we have Philip meeting a man from Ethiopia in the desert. The Ethiopian had been all the way to Jerusalem to worship and, on his way home, riding in a chariot, he was reading from Isaiah 53. When Philip asked if he understood what he was reading, the Ethiopian invited Philip to teach him. As Philip explained the Scripture to him, teaching him about Jesus, the record says, "And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what hinders me from being baptized? And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:36-39). You will note that nothing was said about prayer. Why? Because prior to his baptism this man was not a child of God. First, he needed to obey the Lord that he might be saved, putting him in a relationship where he could pray to God as His son.

In John 9 we have the story of a man who had been blind from birth and how Jesus miraculously gave him his sight. Later, this same man said, "Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” (John 9:31). In other words, this Scripture is plainly stating, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that prayer does not save one or make him a child of God, but rather one becomes a Christian by doing the will of God. Do you remember that Saul was praying for three days and nights, a penitent man crying for forgiveness, but when Ananias came to him he did not tell him to simply continue pray­ing. No! He said, "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16).

In the conversions in the book of Acts, we have seen what one must do to be saved. In John 8:42-47 Jesus spoke of those whose father was the devil. If a sinner could be saved through prayer only, what advantage would a child of God have over a sinner, in being able to pray to his Father? None, of course. There is no place for "The Sinner's Prayer" in becoming a child of God. One must first become God's child, by being born into His family, before he can pray and expect God to hear him.

Christ said that one must believe and be baptized to be saved (Mark 16:16). When the sinner obeys these commands from the heart, he experi­ences the new birth, and he now has the right to pray, "Our Father ...."

- J.C. Choate. (edited and adapted by Roger L. Leonard)

- By John Waddey

By the middle of the 20th century most evangelical Protestant churches had begun to teach the lost that they need only utter words they called "the Sinner's Prayer" and God would save them. Bill Bright of the Campus Crusade for Christ is often credited for this prayer. Although the wording has never been precise, the essence is always the same. It is based on the 16th century view of Martin Luther that sinners are saved by faith alone before and without water baptism. Below are two samples of this prayer for salvation:

"Heavenly Father, I know that I am a sinner and that I deserve to go to hell. I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. I do now receive him as my Lord and personal Savior. I promise to serve you to the best of my ability. Please save me. In Jesus' name, Amen."

"Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. Please forgive my sins and give me the gift of eternal life. I ask you into my life and heart to be my Lord and Savior. I want to serve you always."

As we examine this "Sinner's Prayer" in light of God's Word, several things come to mind:

* All of us are sinners. The distinction is that some are God's children, saved by Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26-27) and some are alien sinners who have never believed in or obeyed the Lord (Rom. 5:8).

* All of us can pray. The difference being, God hears prayers of the righteous, but not those of the wicked (I Pet. 3:12).

* If a sinner prays to God for help in finding the way of salvation, God will answer that prayer. Jesus said "If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching...." (John 7:17). Cornelius was not a disciple of Christ when he prayed to God and God sent Peter to him to instruct and baptize him (Acts 10:1-2; 28-29; 47-48). To be saved he had to follow the instructions Peter gave (Acts 10:48)

* Even sinners can believe in Jesus. James tells us that devils believe and tremble (Jas. 2: 19), but they are not saved by the mere presence of faith. Faith must express itself in obedience to Christ (Jas. 2:24, 26), otherwise it is dead in itself.

* All of us should gladly accept Jesus in our heart and mind. Only those who thus "receive him" have the right to become children of God (John 1:11-12). Accepting Christ is only one step toward salvation.

* All of us should acknowledge the fact that we have sinned and fallen short of God's glory (Rom. 3:23). That is a fact no one can deny. That acknowledgment alone, while vital, does not bring salvation

* All may wish for eternal life, but Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to all that obey him (Heb. 5:9).

* We certainly should desire and promise to obey Christ, but that must include baptism in water if one hopes to have his sins forgiven and become a child of God. Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). Saul was told to "arise and be baptized and wash away (his) sins" (Acts 22:16). In our baptism we receive remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

What Makes the Sinner's Prayer So Attractive to Humanity?
* To those ignorant of the Bible's teaching on salvation, it is simple and so easily performed.

* They are convinced one has to do nothing but utter a few words to receive salvation, the world's greatest blessing.

* It seems that everyone else thinks this is God's way of salvation. It is taught and practiced by most of the Evangelical churches and by some of the most renowned preachers such as Bill Bright, Billy Graham and Max Lucado.

* When spoken, the words seem to reflect biblical themes such as sin, Jesus, faith, and forgiveness.

* Millions of sincere souls have prayed this prayer, surely they cannot all be wrong.

* Multitudes want to be saved by something as simple as the sinner's prayer. They want it, they will have it.

The Problem Is, this concept is no where taught in the New Testament of Christ. It is contrary to the clear teaching of Jesus and his Apostles about the necessary conditions of salvation. Any man who has read through the New Testament has to know this is not found in that record. To imply that it is there is dishonest. Christ has told us what He expects of those who wish to be saved. Our job is to believe in Him as Lord and submit to his will. Satan has inspired this prayer to give sinners the false hope of salvation when in reality they are still in his kingdom and under his control. For only when we are born of water and Spirit do we enter the kingdom of heaven (John 3:5). That birth of water and Spirit is experienced when we are baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38). Let no man deceive you (II Thess. 2:3)!